The Mandalorian fills a gap in the modern Star Wars canon, and also embraces its fandom
Ever since Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy was tossed out the airlock, there’s been a bit of a gap in the Star Wars timeline. Disney’s first live-action streaming television show, The Mandalorian, aims to fix that. Thanks to a panel at this year’s Star Wars Celebration fan convention, we finally know how the series fits into the revised canon of a galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes place some 30 years after the end of Return of the Jedi. Writer and producer Jon Favreau has set his series directly into that gap, placing it just five short years after the destruction of the second Death Star.
“It was really compelling to me,” Favreau said, “what happened after the celebration of the Empire falling. The revolution is successful, and then what happens? Now what?”
Historically, the fall of a government creates a power vacuum, a period of uncertainty where violence and criminality flourish. Look at any major conflict, especially those from modern times, and you’ll see a similar pattern of lawlessness. The Star Wars universe has never explored a period like that in detail, and Favreau seems eager for the chance.
“It’s fun at first, but it gets very complicated very quickly,” Favreau continued. “The idea of that world of after the Return of the Jedi, and what would happen, and the type of characters that would survive. What it was like until the New Republic took over?
Perhaps that’s what makes the Mandalorian himself the perfect focal point for the series. Canonically, the Empire devastated the planet of Mandalore, enslaving its people and stealing its resources to build its war machines. But now the tables have turned, and the last remnants of the old guard are dead or in hiding.
In a private screening of a brief snippet of The Mandalorian’s first episode, Celebration attendees were introduced to actor Werner Herzog’s as-yet-unnamed character. Flanked by four filthy stormtroopers, Herzog sat at a table in a grimy room. Hanging from his neck was a massive, gold Imperial medallion, marking him as some kind of government official. Fans were left to imagine what it must have been like for a man of such power and prominence to find himself on the run, hiding out in dark alleys, and employing criminals to do his dirty work.
The Mandalorian was there for a contract, of course. In exchange for his services, Herzog’s character revealed a billet of beskar, a special type of iron used to make the bounty hunter’s iconic armor.
“The beskar belongs back into the hands of a Mandalorian,” Herzog said, his distinctive voice drawing out the syllables in a heavy handed, nearly mocking way. “It is good to restore the natural order of things after a period of such disarray, don’t you agree?”
What little of the series was shown was action-packed. Hand-to-hand combat included Gina Carano (Fast & Furious 6), who plays a former Rebel shock trooper, and the Mandalorian himself duking it out in the dust. Stormtroopers get their helmets caved in by melee weapons, and IG-88 himself shows up at one point to lay down a withering barrage of blaster fire.
But, while The Mandalorian is firmly rooted in Star Wars’ 40-plus year history, it’s also closely tied to modern fan culture itself. To fill out the cast of one episode, Favreau revealed that he asked director Dave Filoni to call in a favor with the legendary cosplayers of the 501st Legion.
Actor Carl Weathers himself applauded the members of the 501st for their dedication to the hobby, as well as their abilities on set.
“They worked really hard,” Weathers said. “They didn’t mess around. They were really on point the entire time they were there, each day. So it was so cool. And I wound up learning stuff from watching these guys, and women.”
“A lot of the costumes you guys make are are even better than the ones we use on screen,” Filoni said. “So I had no worries that it would hold up, and it sure as hell does. And, amazingly, as much as their armor is so accurate that they look like stormtroopers, they act like stormtroopers.”
The Mandalorian isn’t the only live-action series in the works at Disney. In November Disney also announced a spin-off of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The as-yet-untitled streaming series will star Diego Luna, who will reprise his role as Rebel spy Cassian Andor.